After months of speculations about his resolve to dump the governing All Progressives Party (APC), Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday formally announced his defection to the Peoples Democratic party (PDP).
Following suit is the governor of his home state, Abdulfatah Ahmed, who also announced his defection to the PDP shortly after the Senate president made his own public.
Saraki, while announcing his defection during a stakeholders meeting in his Ilorin residence in Kwara State, said his decision to dump the APC was based on the insistence of his supporters and the guidance he received from God.
Also, in a statement he personally signed yesterday, the Senate president said he was forced to quit the APC due to actions of certain members of the party that are inimical to justice, equity and fairness as basic preconditions for unity and peaceful co-existence within the party and the country as a whole.
Speaking at the meeting in Ilorin, Saraki said, "We discussed this issue last week when I came home. You told me that you were tired of APC, but I asked you to exercise patience. I told you that I will seek God's guidance and feed you back on my return to Ilorin.
"The federal government appointed over 200 persons into juicy offices without allotting any slot to me or Dogara. Everything went to Katsina, Katsina, Lagos, Lagos. If not for the love I have for Nigeria, we would have scattered everything. They don't want us in their party. They don't like us in Kwara. What I am after is for my people to enjoy dividend of democracy. I want us to be in the party that will love my people.
"Wherever we are we will win elections. The governor told me he is tired of APC. Those we are talking to in PDP have understood that we need to move Nigeria forward. There is no cause for alarm. We should forget about personal ambition as we move to a new party. What should be Paramount in our minds is Nigeria's progress.
"We will set up our committee which will be meeting with the PDP committee. I have met with great stakeholders in PDP such as Prof Sulaiman, Ajibola Simon, Yekini Alabi and we have all agreed to work together. We should cooperate with PDP people who we are joining."
Announcing his cross carpeting in a statement, Saraki declared that "today, I start as I return to the party where I began my political journey, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)".
He insisted that he didn't just jump to the decision by accident because he tarried for so long and did all that was humanly possible, even in the face of great provocation, ridicule and flagrant persecution, to give opportunity for peace, reconciliation and harmonious existence.
Saraki stated that there are some people in the APCleadership hierarchy who did not think dialogue was the way forward and therefore chose to play the fifth columnists.
He said these individuals went to work and ensured that they scuttle the great efforts and the good intentions of other leaders of the party.
"Perhaps, had these divisive forces not thrown the cogs in the wheel at the last minutes, and in a manner that made it impossible to sustain any trust in the process, the story today would have been different", he noted.
Saraki said he decided to eventually quit because he is mindful of the fact that he carries on his shoulder a great responsibility for thousands of his supporters, political associates and friends, who have trusted in his leadership and have attached their political fortunes to him.
He continued: However, it is after an extensive consultation with all the important stakeholders that we have come to this difficult but inevitable decision to pitch our political tent elsewhere; where we could enjoy greater sense of belonging and where the interests of the greatest number of our Nigerians would be best served.
"While I take full responsibility for this decision, I will like to emphasise that it is a decision that has been inescapably imposed on me by certain elements and forces within the APC who have ensured that the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist.
"They have done everything to ensure that the basic rules of party administration, which should promote harmonious relations among the various elements within the party were blatantly disregarded. All governance principles, which were required for a healthy functioning of the party and the government, were deliberately violated or undermined.
"And all entreaties for justice, equity and fairness as basic precondition for peace and unity, not only within the party, but also the country at large, were simply ignored, or employed as additional pretext for further exclusion".
The Senate president added: "The experience of my people and associates in the past three years is that they have suffered alienation and have been treated as outsiders in their own party. Thus, many have become disaffected and disenchanted.
"At the same time, opportunities to seek redress and correct these anomalies were deliberately blocked as a government-within-a-government had formed an impregnable wall and left in the cold, everyone else who was not recognized as one of us. This is why my people, like all self-respecting people would do, decided to seek accommodation elsewhere".
Saraki who equally disclosed his experience as Senate president in the last three years said it was akin to a situation whereby every dissent from the legislature was framed as an affront on the executive or as part of an agenda to undermine the government itself.
He noted: "The populist notion of anti-corruption became a ready weapon for silencing any form of dissent and for framing even principled objection as "corruption fighting back.
"Persistent onslaught against the legislature and open incitement of the people against their own representatives became a default argument in defence of any short-coming of the government in a manner that betrays all too easily, a certain contempt for the Constitution itself or even the democracy that it is meant to serve.
"Unfortunately, the self-serving gulf that has been created between the leadership of the two critical arms of government based on distrust and mutual suspicion has made any form of constructive engagement impossible.
"Therefore, anything short of a slavish surrender in a way that reduces the legislature to a mere rubber stamp would not have been sufficient in procuring the kind of rapprochement that was desired in the interest of all. But I have no doubt in my mind, that to surrender this way is to be complicit in the subversion of the institution that remains the very bastion of our democracy. I am a democrat.
"And I believe that anyone who lays even the most basic claim to being a democrat will not accept peace on those terms, which seeks to compromise the very basis of our existence as the parliament of the people".
This just as he dismissed the possibility of settlement, saying the hope of reconciliation at this point is very slim indeed because "most of the horses had bolted from the stable"
The Senate president however expressed appreciation for reconciliatory efforts made all along by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, some governors of the APC and the party's national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
"I thank them for all their great efforts to save the day and achieve reconciliation. Even though I thought these efforts were coming late in the day, but seeing the genuine commitment of these gentlemen, I began to think that perhaps it was still possible to reconsider the situation", he stated.
In attendance at the stakeholders meeting in Ilorin were the state governor, Abdulfattah Ahmed, all members of the National Assembly from the state, 23 members of the state House of Assembly, local government chairmen and members of the state executive council.
Governor Ahmed's defection to PDP was also announced in Ilorin in a statement signed by his senior special assistant on media, Dr Muhideen Akorede.
Ahmed had last week hinted of his intention to dump the APC, citing injustices in the running of the party on which platform he was elected governor in 2015 as reasons.
In the statement he issued announcing his defection yesterday, the governor said his decision followed due consultations with the people of the state, adding that it was in response to calls by major stakeholder groups in the state.
"Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed today defected to the People's Democratic Party (PDP), having realised that the All Progressive Congress (APC) can no longer serve as a platform for achieving the aspirations and expectations of his people", the statement made available to LEADERSHIP noted.
APC Queries Senate President
Following his defection from the governing party to the PDP, the National Working Committee of the APC yesterday queried Senate President Bukola Saraki, asking him to respond within 48 hours why disciplinary action ought not to be taken against him for breaching article 21 of the constitution of the party.
In a resolution signed by the national secretary of the party, Maimala Buni, The APC accused the Senate president of flouting the laws of the party with his activities.
According to the resolution, the Senate president must respond to the allegations or face sanctions.
Some of the allegations raised against him in the query are as follows: "That you (Saraki) encouraged and facilitated by providing an enabling environment for the defection of some senators who are members of the APC to the other opposition Parties.
"That you have deliberately refused to screen nominees for appointments submitted by Mr President who are members of the party from being confirmed by the senate. This has caused untold embarrassment and ridicule to the party and the government.
"That you have organized a public rally in your state where members of the party urged you to decamp to PDP. That as a follow up to the above the Kwara state governor who is known to be your staunch supporter Had made public pronouncements suggesting that he will decamp from the party as an indicator to your formal defection.
The APC further alleged: "That you (Saraki) used the office of the senate President to cause avoidable delays in the budgetary process and passage of the appropriation act into law thereby frustrating the implementation of the party's manifesto and programs and frustrating the APC led Federal Government in the actualization of the campaign promises of the party.
"Converting the guest house of the senate President to meeting points and presiding over anti APC activities in the guest house and encouraging defection of senators from the party and presiding over such meetings and compiling a list of the said defectors including some without out their consent.
"Procuring joint letter of decampees from the APC and reading same on the floor of the senate including some who did not accede to defecting thereby causing embarrassment to the party. In spite of the efforts to address grievances to reconcile aggrieved members, you worked against the process and encouraged the formation of an association which sought to impersonate and pass off the name of the party".
I Am Still In APC- Bolaji
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Balaji Abdullahi, yesterday dismissed insinuations that he has resigned his membership of the party.
Reacting to the report of his speculated resignation trending in the media, the APC spokesman said there is no iota of truth in the report.
The absence of the former Minister of Sports during the regular Monday meeting of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) had fueled speculations that he may have concluded arrangements to leave the party.
Abdullahi, while reacting to the development, however, said he was not considering leaving the party, stressing that he came through the front door and would not go through the back door.
Defending his absence during the NWC meeting, he said he actually notified the party's national leadership of his absence from the meeting.
Abdullahi said, "It is not true that I have resigned and let me emphasis that there is no iota of truth in it. I can understand where the speculation is coming from, perhaps because I was absent during the NWC meeting on Monday.
"However, they didn't know that I told my colleagues that I was away to Kwara state. I want to put it on record that I came through the front door and if I decide to leave, I will leave through the front door".
Saraki, Abdulfatah, Ibeto's Return Timely For Democracy - PDP
Meanwhile, the PDP yesterday welcomed Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor Ahmed Abdulfatah of Kwara State and the Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto, to its fold.
In a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said the coming of Saraki, Ahmed and Ibeto could not have been at a better time than when the nation requires the input of genuine patriots that will save her from an impending decline.
PDP noted that Saraki and Ahmed suffered harassment and intimidation from those it called "Lords" in the APC, a party the duo helped to build and nurtured to win elections.
"Senator Saraki, in particular, has conducted the affairs of the Senate in reflection of the wishes of the silent majority of Nigerians and had emerged a hero of democracy", the party stated.
PDP said it has no doubts that Saraki, Ahmed and Ibeto will contribute immensely to the new order that engender good governance in the nation, just as it assured all returning members of all the rights and privileges accruable to every member of the party.
"Furthermore, the PDP calls on all Nigerians who are desirous of rescuing our nation from the incompetent administration of President Buhari to rally with party of choice, PDP, ahead of the 2019 elections," the party said.
Atiku Hails Saraki, Says APC Treated Him Maliciously
Also, former vice president and presidential hopeful under the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday hailed the resignation of Senate President Saraki from the APC, saying the governing party treated him maliciously regardless of his status.
The former vice president urged Saraki to join the PDP because the party's ideology and political philosophy is conducive to the Senate president's political leaning, under which he served as presidential adviser, governor and Senator.
Atiku, in a statement issued by his media aide, Paul Ibe, said he received the news that Saraki has resigned with great joy.
The statement noted: "Senator Saraki's ordeal at the hand of the All Progressives Congress is all too familiar to lovers of democracy in Nigeria and around the world.
"Leaving a party, which maliciously prosecuted him and subjected him to the most degrading treatment, notwithstanding his status as the nation's number three citizen, took courage, and I commend him.
"What the APC did to Senator Saraki is what they have also done to Nigeria as a nation. They have degraded our democracy and our economy.
"Bukola Saraki is a product of the Peoples Democratic Party, under whose banner he became a Presidential Adviser, Governor and Senator. The PDP's ideology and political philosophy is conducive to Senator Saraki's political leaning.
"I therefore not only welcome Senator Saraki's resignation from the APC, I also urge him to go one step further and join the only party capable of enshrining genuine democracy in Nigeria as well as lasting economic progress. I urge Senator Saraki to join our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party".
Count PMB Out Of Benue Assembly Saga
Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday refuted claims by some politicians and interest groups suggesting President Muhammadu Buhari's involvement in the attempt by the Benue State House of Assembly to impeach the state governor, Samuel Ortom.
It regretted that even while the president was attending the ECOWAS/ECCAS Summit in Togo, strident attempts were being made to drag him into the unfolding drama between the executive and the legislature in Benue State.
In a statement issued by special adviser on media and publicity to the president, Femi Adesina, the presidency expressed shock that different interest groups issued statements, insinuating that the president may have a hand in the development in Benue.
According to Adesina, "this is paranoia at its worst coming from people who have wittingly positioned themselves against the cleanup of the country and the way we do things", adding that "they prefer business as usual".
He stressed that President Buhari will never be part of any unconstitutional act, and any attempt to link him with the inglorious past when minority number of lawmakers impeached governors will not stick.
The presidential spokesman stated: "It will simply be like water off the duck's back. Those with open minds know this, but those who cavil would rather source everything untoward to the President. It is murky ground in which they are now marooned, as fallout of their resistance to change in the country.
"When it suits them, they preach separation of powers and true federalism, and in another breath, they call on the President to interfere brazenly in affairs at state level. President Buhari will always stand by all that is noble and fair, and will reject attempts to drag him into infamy.
"People who stoke fires by deliberate acts of omission or commission, and then summon the President to come and put it out will find that this President will be guided by the Constitution at all times, no matter the attempt to entangle him in unwarranted controversies".